From Death Valley to... Shady Lady!!

Day 3 – June 20, 2021

Outside Big Pine, California, I woke up to a view of the Sierra Nevada. Getting situated, I carried Zill out of the tent to the road to avoid thorns getting in his paws.

It was hot, dry, and… Well, deserted.

Our camp in Sonora Pass the previous night almost seemed like a distant memory…

We dismantled the tent to hit the road through the desert.

A sign warned us there would be no services available before 2 upcoming towns: one 30 miles, the other 72 miles away. We looked at the dashboard: the gas tank range indicated we had 70 miles plus one gallon of reserve (roughly an extra 30 miles) to go. But some 100 miles later, as we approached Death Valley, no gas station nor town were in sight, and we were now tapping in the gas tank reserve.

Going slightly downhill, Glen began coasting to save our gas.

We were both scanning the horizon for any sign of life but all our eyes met were little settlements of decrepit mobile homes and rusty pickup trucks, all long abandoned.

The sun was scorching: shutting the air conditioner to save more gas was not an option.

A look at the map showed a town ahead but the time had come to make a decision. Glen asked me if I would rather wait, the air conditioner running with the last drops of gas while he’d hitchhike to the next town, or if I’d prefer to keep going till the car runs out and do it all together. There was no way on earth I would add the stress of separating from my travel companion while running out of gas in Death Valley… The temperature had already reached 113°F (45°C) outside; we would stick together!

I spotted a group of trees. In such an arid land, this meant we would find life around it, and if not, at least shade to think about our next step.

As we approached, a sign announced the “Shady Lady Bed and Breakfast”. Half laughing, we pulled in the dusty path leading to the green area… Soon could not believe what we were seeing: a manicured garden surrounded a welcoming green and yellow house, peacocks walked nonchalantly through the green grass and under shade-providing trees; a heavenly sight!

We were safe from roasting in the middle of the desert and burst out laughing!

I pushed the wooden gate and walked to the house’s front porch. A man in his sixties greeted me with a South African accent. Nigel was the owner, along with his wife Jennifer. I explained our situation and Nigel said “I have good news and bad news! The bad news is that I don’t have any more gas; the good news is that my neighbor D likely does!”

Nigel came out to our car and gave us indications: we would go back on the road to pull in the next lot a few hundred meters away. The next step would be to look for D in his trailer and possibly wake him up if he had too much to drink the night before.

We decided to come back for breakfast with gas in the tank and proceeded to the next “block”.

As we pulled in an abandoned gas station just as the car engine shut down, empty of its last drop of gas.

Following Nigel’s instructions, Glen walked to an old RV parked left of the rusty pumps.

Glen knocked on the old trailer wall with a curtain in place of the door. A voice yelled “I’m naked!”… D was in.

In the meantime, I was next to our car when a man came out of another old trailer. Gary introduced himself. He looked as if he came out of a beach in Tel Aviv yet spoke with a strong Boston accent. Glen joined us waiting for D to come out dressed.

After just a few words with Gary, the 3 of us were laughing like old friends!

D appeared, dressed, and engaged in a conversation with Glen.

I continued chatting with Gary. Everything about him was unexpected; he was full of contrast and spoke words of religion and spirituality. Softness and kindness radiated from him…

I felt as if I was living in a movie: the situation was totally unreal, unlike anything I had ever experienced, and this was only our third day on the road!

I was interrupted by a call from France, it was my daughter. I was happy the call made it through and I briefed Salomee about our adventures. She was interrupted by a friend passing by. I heard her addressing her friend “I’m on the phone with my mom, she just ran out of gas in Death Valley!”

With a gallon of gas in the tank and after one long story of gold-filled property D wanted Glen to invest in, we parted from our new friends. Our breakfast at the Shady Lady Bed and Breakfast was awaiting us…

I was wondering what the afternoon had in store for us…